Pirates look to rebound against Knights

Published 5:56 pm Friday, January 6, 2012

GREENVILLE — East Carolina’s five-game winning streak came to a halt on Wednesday as it lost a 78-76 thriller to Southern Miss in its Conference USA opener. The Pirates (9-5, 0-1) will look to start a new streak tonight when they take on a Central Florida team that they some recent success against.
Last year, ECU won all three of its matchups against the Knights (11-3, 1-0) as it swept its two regular season meetings before beating UCF 75-60 in the first round of the Conference USA tournament.
Overall, the Pirates have won their last four meetings with Central Florida but will have their hands full tonight as the Knights come to town having won three in a row with their last one being a 60-53 victory over Tulsa.
When the two teams tipoff at 5 p.m. inside Minges Coliseum, East Carolina will be looking to rebound from that wild outing at Southern Miss in which it shot a sizzling 52.9 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from three-point range in defeat.
Junior point guard Miguel Paul recorded his first double-double with the Pirates as he racked up 19 points and dished out 10 assists. However, junior forward Maurice Kemp saw his string of double-doubles snapped at three as he recorded 14 points and a team-high six rebounds in the loss.
ECU center Darrius Morrow led all scorers on Wednesday as he erupted for 23 points. Morrow, Paul and Kemp were the only ECU players to reach double-digit scoring totals.
UCF, which knocked off reigning NCAA champs UConn earlier this year, heads into the matchup with the conference’s ninth-ranked scoring offense (65.9 ppg) and the third-best defense (60.4 ppg) and is led by junior guard Marcus Jordan, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, who is second in C-USA in scoring with 17.6 points per game.
Also leading the charge for the Knights is 6-9 forward/center Keith Clanton who is posting 15.1 points per game. Clanton, who needs only eight points to become the 15th member of the 1,000-point club in school history, is fifth in the conference in rebounding with 9.6 boards a night while his 1.9 blocks per game is second.
UCF has also gotten solid contributions from 6-5 sophomore Isaiah Sykes who is third on the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game.
Paul continues to lead the way for the Pirates as his 15.9 points per night is the fifth-best average in the league while his six assists per game is tops and his 1.8 steals per contest is second.
Morrow is second on the team is scoring and rebounds as he is posting 13.8 points per night while grabbing 6.1 rebounds. Kemp’s 10.6 points per game is the third best total and the 6-8, 185-pound forward is pulling down a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game.
East Carolina’s 73.6 points per game is the fifth best total in C-USA and its 61.4 points allowed is fourth.
The Pirates got a boost in the paint Wednesday by the return of sophomore Robert Sampson who was battling an ankle injury. The forward played 14 minutes and scored three points against the Golden Eagles and is expected to suit up again today,